Who historically taxes us more on petrol, Labour or the Conservatives?

3 min Read Published: 27 Apr 2010

Fuel duty is a thorn in the side of all motorists as well as a political hot potato. Fuel prices are at record levels and with an Election around the corner motorists’ votes will likely be swayed by party policy on fuel duty. So which party has historically taxed petrol the most?

Using petrol and fuel tax data gathered by the AA and Platts respectively I’ve analysed how the tax on petrol has risen under both Labour and Conservative Governments, as far back as 1960.  This is summarised in the chart below which shows the percentage of historical petrol prices which has been tax (a combination of duty and VAT that goes to the Government when you buy petrol at the pumps).

I’ve also plotted the historical petrol price excluding tax. This is useful in determining whether percentage drops or rises in fuel tax were down to fluctuations in the underlying price of petrol or Government policy. (click on the image below to open it full size).

So what does this tell us?

If you look at the longest Conservative Government (1979-1997) you can see that the real price of petrol was the same at the beginning of their tenure as it was at the end. Yet the percentage level of tax increased from 46.95% to a whopping 78.83%!!

Meanwhile, under Labour’s latest reign (1997 to date) the percentage tax figure has dropped. But this is largely down to the underlying price of petrol rocketing which outpaced their tax rises. In real terms tax increased over the period by 22.7p per litre. (comparable to a whopping 45.6p increase under the last Conservative Government)

That means that during their most recent turn in power the Tories increased tax on petrol by 2.53p per litre on average each year compared to just 1.74p under Labour.

I have no political allegiance to either party and am just reporting the facts – as it makes for fascinating reading. But, before Labour supporters start crowing, this is just one aspect of the economy. The current economic mess, which the UK finds itself in, happened on their watch.

(For tips on how to cut the cost of motoring including petrol costs follow this link - Lunchtime Money Makeover #2 – Cut the cost of motoring)

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